What if the sole beneficiary has died
This is not a common problem, but we are sometimes asked the question: “What will happen to the estate if the sole beneficiary has died?”
In most cases, if the beneficiary outlived the deceased by more than 30 days but then died before probate was granted then the rules of intestacy may be applied to the distribution of that person's inheritance if they had no will. A lot would depend on what the first person's will stated, assuming they had a will. This more complex situation would take place if there were no surviving beneficiaries and no issue of beneficiaries.
Depending on the structure of the family, distribution could be very complicated, with shares of assets often not equal. However, who is likely to receive something is listed below, in order of priority:
- Surviving spouse or civil partner (even if separated or in the process of divorce)
- The deceased’s surviving children
- Brothers and sisters
- Uncles and aunts
- Half uncles and aunts
In some instances, it is not clear who the remaining survivors are and in cases such as these, it may take the services of a reputable heir hunter to track them down, particularly if there are relatives who live abroad.
A recent article in a national newspaper recently revealed that a woman had been contacted by a supposed law firm specialising in heir hunting.
The letter which she received from the bogus law firm called “Whittaker Advogados” which was apparently based in Portugal, stated that a relative had died and that according to the British Consulate, she was in line to benefit a considerable sum of money.
Although she hadn’t yet been asked for any money up front, quite rightly, the woman asked the newspaper columnist to research the company for her.
In actual fact, the company appeared to have been set up only a few weeks previously in the US, rather than in Portugal, as it claimed. There were no other references to the eminent lawyer named and the website itself was a direct copy of another law firm’s website.
Guaranteed, further down the line, the woman would have been asked to pay a sum of money in order to progress the bogus “case”.
This serves as a reminder to be on your guard when it comes to companies approaching you with excellent news of an unexpected windfall. Although a handful of individuals are indeed surprised by an inheritance each year, you should always research the relevant company first and never send any money.